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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > Can the Airlock still be bubbling and fermentation be "Done"?
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Old 08-20-2009, 01:26 PM   #1
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Default Can the Airlock still be bubbling and fermentation be "Done"?

I know you usually get the opposite question!! But anyway heres the deal.

I have an extreme berry stout that had an og somewhere above 1.1 I know this but how much so I'm not sure. Anyway its now going on day 28 and The airlock has slowed down to maybe one every 2 minutes or so? With the Super High Gravity Yeast from WL should I really just wait till airlock activity stops completely? I can't believe how long this has been fermenting.

But now I have 2 other stouts one was og 1.080 and the other 1.060 and they are still fermenting (Airlock Activity) after 18 and 16 days respectively. All at about the same rate like once every 2-3 minutes.

I've taken SG on them all and they SHOULD be done. They haven't moved after 5 days....but the airlock is still going.

I did this to a stout 2 weeks ago. Its SG didn't change from 1.020 for over 5 days, but you could still see little bubbles pop on the surface but since SG is supposed to be the way to go and it had been like 17 days in the primary I decided to bottle it. Well I have had an exploding bottle so far (But I think it may have been a weak bottle also though... the bottom blew out of it which is a first.

Anyway curious to hear what you all think.

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Old 08-20-2009, 01:27 PM   #2
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btw the other 2 stouts are with English Ale WL yeast.

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Old 08-20-2009, 01:30 PM   #3
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I never go by airlock activity. Test the gravity. Bubbling airlock can just be out gassing of co2.

For your other stout, my guess is that it was done because its gravity didn't change for 5 days and it sounds like you over carbed your bottles. Though it could have been stalled and bottling got it going again.

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Old 08-20-2009, 02:14 PM   #4
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I never go by airlock activity. Test the gravity. Bubbling airlock can just be out gassing of co2.

For your other stout, my guess is that it was done because its gravity didn't change for 5 days and it sounds like you over carbed your bottles. Though it could have been stalled and bottling got it going again.
+1 to this. Bottle Bombs suck be very careful when handling. I would open a test bottle and see if just how carbonated they are. If the bottles are carbonated then I would get them in the fridge to slow down the yeast. You could have also just had a lot of priming sugar in that bottle.

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Old 08-20-2009, 03:05 PM   #5
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yes well...co2 is being produced because the yeast is doing their job and turning sugar into alcohol correct?

The whole deal about airlock activity was I thought "Don't think that your beer is DONE just because airlock activity has ceased" I can understand that because of a bad seal ect ect.

But Here I obviously have a good airtight seal. CO2 HAS to be building up and being produced. When you open the lid you can obviously see bubbling on the surface. So the Yeast are still making Alcohols correct?

I use the same amount of Priming Sugar Each time. 3/4 cup of Corn Sugar.

Sure airlocks are a bad a bad indicator, but if the airlock is STILL going that should be a positive indicator of fermentation continuing no?

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Old 08-20-2009, 03:09 PM   #6
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yes well...co2 is being produced because the yeast is doing their job and turning sugar into alcohol correct?

The whole deal about airlock activity was I thought "Don't think that your beer is DONE just because airlock activity has ceased" I can understand that because of a bad seal ect ect.

But Here I obviously have a good airtight seal. CO2 HAS to be building up and being produced. When you open the lid you can obviously see bubbling on the surface. So the Yeast are still making Alcohols correct?

I use the same amount of Priming Sugar Each time. 2/3 cup of Corn Sugar.

Sure airlocks are a bad a bad indicator, but if the airlock is STILL going that should be a positive indicator of fermentation continuing no?
No. Airlocks bubble because of co2 being released from the beer/wine/cider/mead. That may be because of fermentation. But not always. Sometimes, it's weather related. Increased temperature, for example, will cause the airlock to bubble like mad. Taking my fermenter from the cold basement to upstairs to bottle will cause a ton of bubbling. Also, if a change in barometric pressure happens- all of a sudden, the co2 will come bubbling out.

Colder solutions "hold" co2 more readily, so a warm up of the fermenter will cause off-gassing.

If the SG hasn't changed in a few days, it's not going to change. There are only so many fermentable sugars present. When they are gone, they are gone. Bubbling or not bubbling doesn't change that.

That's why bubbling is never really a reliable sign of fermentation.
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Old 08-20-2009, 03:18 PM   #7
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It should never be considered done until you have taken a gravity reading, and it is stable for a couple of days.

Even once the yeast is done there is still C02 in the beer, this will gas off causing the airlock to move.

If your beer has a stuck fermentation, where the yeast stop producing before the wort is completely fermented, the airlock will stop bubbling. If you do not take a gravity reading you will not know this. So you rack to bottles, which changes the temperature and disturbs the yeast, they go back into active fermentation, now with added priming sugar to boot, and you will be greeted to the sound of glass grenades going off in a few days.

If you do take a gravity reading for a few days and it stays steady and is around where you expect it to be (by the recipe) then by all means bottle it. However I'd recommend using one of the online carbonation calculators, to adjust for volume, style etc. 3/4 can be correct but is not right for every batch. If you loose beer to racking, dry hopping etc, and end up with 4.5 gallons instead of 5, 3/4c is too much. This can also lead to bottle bombs.

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